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China Appeals for Halt of US Arms Sales to Taiwan - 2004-10-08


Chinese President Hu Jintao has called on President Bush not to sell weapons to Taiwan. The appeal came in a telephone conversation between the two leaders.

Chinese state-run media on Friday quoted President Hu Jintao as telling President Bush the United States should adhere to the so-called one-China policy, and stop selling weapons to Taiwan.

The island has been self-governed since 1949, when Chinese nationalists fled there after their defeat by Communist forces in a civil war. China considers Taiwan a part of its territory, and Communist leaders threaten to invade the island, if it formally declares independence, or is slow to unite with the mainland.

Tensions have risen in recent years, with Beijing accusing Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian of moving the island closer to independence.

Mr. Hu's demand for an end to U.S.-Taiwan weapons sales in Thursday's conversation was a familiar theme. Analysts say there was no new message from Beijing.

However, it was the first time Mr. Hu has spoken with the U.S. leader since he assumed control of the Communist Party's central military commission last month, after former President Jiang Zemin retired from the post.

Joseph Cheng is a politics professor at the City University of Hong Kong. He says Mr. Hu appears to have made it clear to Mr. Bush that Beijing's Taiwan policy remains unchanged.

"This is the first important signal that the Chinese leader still counts on the United States to cooperate, in order to deter the Chen Shui-bian administration, so as to maintain peace in the Taiwan Strait," said Joseph Cheng.

The United States, which has a law requiring it to defend Taiwan from an attack by the mainland, has stepped up its weapons sales to Taipei since the mid-1990's, when China started applying more pressure on the island. Chinese officials have been growing uneasy, as Taiwan considers a plan to purchase $18 billion in missiles and other military equipment from the United States.

It is not clear whether that particular deal came up in the telephone conversation between the two leaders on Thursday.

U.S. officials say President Bush assured the Chinese leader that Washington continues to oppose any move by either side to change the island's status.

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